This year’s WebXR Brand Summit took place this past Thursday, September 15th, followed by an open format Town Hall event the week before. Hosted by the same organization that hosts the Polys Awards, the event included roundtables and use cases on how brands are exploring WebXR to increase presence and services in a more spatial and connected internet.
Not just for brands
Not for the faint of heart, the full live-streamed remote event ran for nine straight hours. The event was moderated by the tireless Sophia Moshasha and Julie Smithson, with technical assistance from Ben Irwin, and featured 20 speakers over 11 sessions. If you think that means people have been selling sneakers all day, you’re missing the importance of brands in immersive spaces.
“This is where we think it starts. Brands have invested in this space from the start. … We owe them a lot of credit for starting experimentation,” Moshasha said in a welcome speech with Smithson. “Discussing the history of brands in immersive technology is valuable for everyone.”
A fireside chat with Amy Peck
“Immersive Spaces” and “Immersive Tech” are important terms because according to the first speaker of the WebXR Brand Summit, we are not yet on “Metaverse”. This means that while we should think about the history of brands, it is also a term for brands to reflect on themselves and then move forward.
“This is a moment for brands to ask what their DNA is and extrapolate their DNA into the future.” Amy Peck, founder and CEO of EndeavorXR, said in a fireside chat with Moshasha.
As we can expect these days, some of the talks also touched on cryptocurrencies and blockchain assets, as well as data security in a more connected web. Peck said this more connected future is an opportunity for brands to build trust, not lose it.
“When you start looking at a transparent model and give consumers some power, you humanize that relationship.” said Peck. “The focus shouldn’t be on Tech or Web3 or Metaverse, it should be on the human experience. … We can do anything in these virtual worlds, so let’s not do everything we do in the real world.”
Monetization, product placement and native advertising
The problem with the Metaverse isn’t just that it’s a potential red herring. It can also put brands in a position where they need to bet on the platforms and companies they believe are most likely to be part of a future metaverse. However, this can be avoided by relying on WebXR instead.
“When people talk about metaverses, it’s very difficult to predict which ones will win.” said Zesty co-founder Elijah Tai. Zesty creates posters that can appear as organic ads in immersive experiences, but also act as portals to other experiences. “We built this kind of interoperable framework.”
See also: Does the key to the metaverse lie in more connections between virtual spaces?
Tai’s presentation was followed by a panel moderated by Andy Fidel on product placement and native advertising in the Metaverse, bringing together VNTANA CEO and co-founder Ashley Crowder and Evan Gappelberg of Nextech AR. The talk focused on 3D assets as a limiting factor in the immersive world response.
“Scale is what needs to happen for brands to invest and really deliver value.” said Crowder. “Creating 3D content was really a barrier to adoption.”
Between a recent surge in interest in immersive experiences and an explosion of tools for creating 3D content quickly and affordably, that barrier has fallen. “The floodgates are open,” says Gappelberg.
“The technology will change, but for us, 3D models are the basis.” said Gappelberg. “From there it’s all about what you can do with the 3D model.”
Capturing the spatial imagination
What brands do with their 3D models was a topic covered in the “Capturing the Spatial Imagination” panel discussion with Terry Proto, CEO and Co-Founder of Virtual Reality Marketing, Samantha Wolfe, Founder of PitchFWD, Kiira Benzing, XR Director and Producer by Double Eye Studios. and Immersive Wire editor Tom Ffiske.
A theme of the conversation was that many companies overestimate the amount of money — and perhaps even the amount of work — required to deliver immersive experiences because they want to unnecessarily compete with over-the-top activations from big brands.
“The best experiences I’ve seen are the smaller ones, where you just dive in and everything runs smoothly.” said Ffiske.
Another benefit of smaller and simpler activations, at least initially, is that brands can experiment with the space and find their own voice.
“It’s new technologies, new environments. There will be failures. Not everything will work.” said proto.
Wolfe further commented that people value innovation. Doing all the same thing at the same time is not innovation.
“If you do it because your competitors did it, that’s not innovation,” said Wolfe. “Innovation is looking at what they’ve done and then looking at the landscape and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.”
To reduce costs and accelerate innovation, Benzing re-emphasises the value of presenting 3D assets for consumer-centric enablements that may already exist through in-house design and usage.
“When they create a 3D model of something, that model has so much life beyond the initial activation.” Benzing said.
The future of virtual commerce
Getting started with Web3 and the Metaverse for a non-tech company was a key theme of a panel discussion on The Future of Virtual Commerce with LAMINA1 Chief Strategy Officer Tony Parisi, Spatial Head of Community Jake Steinerman, and Wendell August Forge , Chief Strategy Officer Will Knecht. Knecht has taken his 100 year old gift company into the NFT space.
“While people here do this every day, 99 percent of the world doesn’t.” said servant. “Education was an important part of our process.”
Steinerman commented that some people are intimidated to learn about or invest in any aspect of the new technology because the convergence of these technologies suggests that they must constantly fit together.
“There’s this misconception that NFTs and the Metaverse are intrinsically linked — that you have to have a MetaMask wallet and know what NFTs are in order to even participate in immersive experiences.” said Steinerman. “There’s also this idea that those experiences need to be in a headset.”
Even Parisi commented on the ability of companies to enter emerging technologies with high value and engagement at surprisingly low prices.
“It doesn’t have to be a game development budget. There are already some simple and affordable tools out there.” said Parisi. “There are a lot of places out there that shape the value proposition, and it doesn’t have to be a super expensive process.”
So much more at the WebXR Brand Summit
Nine times out of ten, event coverage fails to capture every session and this was definitely one of those occasions. There was a demo from Head Office Space, a preview of TheMall and lots of great conversations that just couldn’t fit.
The WebXR Brand Summit 2022 can be rewatched on YouTube, but at this time the video is not live. In the meantime, just to kid you, the Town Hall Event, held in preparation for the full WebXR Brand Summit, has already been released.